Tag Archives: Rachael Lynch

Balance is the key to a successful sporting life

THE “GREAT WALL of Warrandyte”, Rachael Lynch OAM was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in the 2024 Australia Day Honours for her services to hockey.
Rachael was awarded for her distinguished career on the hockey pitch, alongside her significant work off the pitch as a mental health ambassador, and as a nurse.
Australia’s “most capped goalkeeper ever”, the two-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist, Rachael was also a dual Olympian, a World Cup silver medallist, and played 233 games for Australia across her international career.
Off the pitch, she is a nurse at Austin Hospital, a hockey coach, a Performance Lifestyle Advisor with the Victorian Institute of Sport (VIS), and a passionate advocate for mental health, serving as an ambassador for RUOK? Day.
Rachael told Warrandyte Diary she has followed the different honours and awards given to Australians over the years and some of the incredible things that they do.

“It is something that is very special and highly regarded, so I am absolutely privileged and honoured to receive one,” she said.

She said she has always tried to keep a life balance, which she is trying to instil in the athletes she supports at the VIS.

“I have four different sports I am looking after at the VIS, none of them being hockey, so I get to share some of my experiences around — like the importance of having a bit of life balance as an athlete.
“I was working as a nurse throughout my whole career, and it was something I was incredibly passionate about, because having those other areas and those other identities allow you to become a better person and a better athlete as well,” she said.

She said while the gender pay gap was a reality, having employment away from elite sport was grounding.

“It was something that gave me perspective, and health is good for that, but I think every athlete is going to go through those ups and downs in their career, and it just allows you to keep you grounded.
“Having something else that you are good at as well, if things aren’t going well in your sport, you have also got those other areas and those things that you are passionate about.
“If I ever met someone for the first time and they asked what I did, I always said that I was a nurse — I didn’t say I was an athlete — I am equally proud of my sporting career, but nursing is something I think is a bit more relatable to people.
“As much as we want the pay gap to close and we want female athletes to have some equality, it would not matter what someone was getting paid; I would always suggest or encourage them to have those other areas outside of their sport.”

Rachael said while she has many highlights on the pitch, it is her legacy of life balance she instilled in the Hockeyroos during her time on the squad she feels most proud of.

“Normally, in an Olympic year, you don’t work or study, just because of the increased load, but I pushed hard to be able to work in that year because it was really important to me and gave me the perspective and balance throughout the year helps me play better.
“At the time, there were only three of us who were working, but then, for the leadup to the 2020 Olympics, nearly everyone in the team was working or studying, and that was a bit of a legacy for me, and I wanted to encourage and educate the importance of that.”

Her hockey career has not always been smooth sailing. In the leadup to Tokyo, players’ lack of confidence in the off-field leadership of Hockey Australia was brought to a head by a decision by selectors to drop Lynch and fellow Hockeyroo Georgie Morgan from the team, only to have the decision reversed on appeal, and the selection panel resign.

“I did six months in the lead into the Tokyo Olympics training by myself because I wasn’t in the team; I had to go through a legal battle to get my spot back, which I did.
“There was a lot that needed to change in the sport, which is what happened, and it was just great to see the group so happy and able to be themselves.
“It was unfortunate how it all played out, but I was happy to be a part of it,” she said. She said the challenges leading up to the Tokyo Olympics made the event even more sweet.
“To be able to get there and go away with a group of girls who felt we were doing something really special, and I guess that was what allowed me to retire feeling pretty content because the sport was in a much better place by that point.”

Rachael has been an ambassador for RUOK? Day, Lifeline, Live to Give, Donor Mate, and also coaches and mentors rising athletes.

“I like to keep myself busy and do several different things, and certainly, in my coaching, I have been fortunate.
“I have got so much out of hockey over the years and to have the opportunity to give back, whether through different mental health activations or my coaching — looking after up-and-coming goalies.
“I am always trying to grab opportunities to share some of the special things that I got from the sport with other young athletes or even older athletes; I really enjoy that,” she said.

Rachael took the opportunity to give a special thank you to her mum, dad, and brother.

“Because they have been there for every step of the journey with me, and I know there were a lot of sacrifices very early on for them to allow me to travel and compete, and so I am also very grateful for that.”

Rachael’s mother, Anne Lynch, spoke to the Diary and said she was very proud of her daughter.

“She is just a beautiful person, she works very hard, and does a lot of community work — she deserves it.
“We are just so excited for her, and based on the messages I have received, the rest of the community are too,” Anne said.

Rachel still gets out on the pitch, playing in local and national competitions.

“I play for Camberwell in the Melbourne competition, and then I also play in the Melbourne team in the national league, so nothing international, but I still love the sport.”

She said she doesn’t think the honour will change things too much for her. “I try to have a positive influence in any environment that I am in, whether it is work or coaching sport.

“The thing I value the most is having balance, perspective, and just being kind to people.”

Rachael joins a number of athletes who were recognised for their services to sport in the 2024 honours.
Commonwealth Games Australia President Ben Houston noted their recognition and congratulated all on their service to sport and their community in Australia.

“Commonwealth sport is at the heart of Australia’s story, and we welcome the continued acknowledgement of those that have contributed to the green and gold at the Games,” said Mr Houston.
“Our congratulations to those who were elevated to and received a Member of the Order of Australia, as well as the recipients recognised with a Medal of the Order of Australia.”

The Governor-General congratulated the 1,042 Australians who received honours this Australia Day.

“Recipients have made a difference and had an impact at the local, national, and international level.
“Individually, they are inspiring, and collectively, they speak to the strength of our communities.
“Recipients come from all parts of the country. “They have served and had an impact in just about every field you can imagine; their stories and backgrounds are diverse.
“We value their service, thank them for their hard work and selflessness and celebrate them.
“To each recipient: know that you have the thanks and respect of your nation. “In my experience, most are humble and often try to deflect attention or praise — please enjoy the moment because your country has decided that you deserve recognition,” the Governor-General said.

Going for Gold in Tokyo

WARRANDYTE’S OWN will be going to Tokyo 2020. In December 2020, Rachael Lynch, Federation of International Hockey 2019 goalkeeper of the year, was dropped from the 2021 squad by then coach Paul Guadoin, But in a wonderful turn of events, it has been confirmed that the now- Perth-based nurse will represent Australia in Tokyo, in her second Olympic Games. Lynch’s international debut with the Hockeyroos was in 2006 and since then has chalked up numerous international fixtures, including three Commonwealth Games. Since the decision to drop her in late 2020, major change has occurred throughout the Hockeyroos setup including the appointment of a new coach, two-time Gold medal Hockeyroo, Katrina Powell. Over the past 12 months, Lynch, a registered nurse, has been simultaneously working on the front line of the pandemic, conducting COVID-19 tests for a mining company in Perth, while tirelessly training to fight for her place on the 16-player squad. Lynch told the Diary that this time playing for the Green and Gold felt, “way bigger”, adding that since the brunt of the pandemic the players have a
“new-found gratitude for international travel, for competition, and for being outside without a mask.” While initially focused on her performance and what she needed to do to break back into the squad, Lynch, as an experienced player, focuses as much of her time helping the rest of the girls in the squad, especially the newer players, saying
“I know that it (also) helps me and my training.” Adding that she has been to an Olympics already and that it helps to impart that knowledge and to
“shed some light on some of the things that make the girls nervous”. The Hockeyroos will be chasing medal placing at Tokyo, currently they are ranked 4th in the world, yet Lynch feels that all the teams are on a
“level playing field.” With very few international competitions, most of the nations have not been able to scout other teams, something that, according to Lynch, allows teams to
“have the opportunity to go away and work on things essentially in private.” Most of the scouting and information on other teams — their strategy, and their set-up — will all be done during the Games; Powell and the coaching team will have their work cut out for them, having to apply game plans they have trained, while accommodating for what other teams are doing. Lynch believes that the most important thing will be to
“keep calm” in those high-pressure situations, adding that medal placings
“will come down to who can adapt quickly.” Lynch’s return to the squad is a boost, not just for her work in goal, but for her knowledge and calm demeanour,
“that’s what I bring to the group.
“That will give the girls a lot more confidence.”
Tokyo 2020 will be vastly different to any of the modern Olympics, with no friends, family, or fans in the stadiums, and with players isolating away from most of the other athletes. Lynch believes that there will be less distractions, although socialising in the village, while distracting “is an enjoyable part of the experience”.
An experience athletes will miss out on, but one that will not be too isolating, as most of the time players are with the rest of the squad or in the hotels.
One of the reasons the athletes socialising is important is it allows for time to “switch off when you need to” Lynch said, you need to
“have a bit of fun within the confines of what you can do.”
While the lack of family and friends present may be challenging mentally, a lack of a crowd may provide an advantage to the athletes. On field players rely on hearing communications from coaches and other players which, without needing to shout over thousands, is something Lynch said they
“don’t have to worry about too much.” While the hopes of the nation can weigh heavy and add pressure, Lynch said that
“knowing that there is a couple of million people watching on TV, that goes out of your head soon as you start the game.” So without the screaming fans there is less to distract you as
“when you have a packed house that adds pressure, that can de-rail you.”
Reflecting on the fact that there had been a few moments she thought Tokyo 2020 would not go ahead, along with her axing and reinstatement to the squad, Lynch said that representing Australia at Tokyo will feel special.
“For me personally, given what I have been through, this feels special to do it, and to do so on a world stage will be even better.”
The Hockeyroos campaign for Gold begins with a match against Spain on Sunday, July 25, at 10am Japan Standard time (JST) (11am AEST).

Lynch trades the pads for the scrubs

Warrandyte local Rachael Lynch will have to wait until July next year to chase her second appearance at the Olympics due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
As a registered nurse in 2020, however, the Hockeyroos goalkeeper has not had much time to dwell on the situation.
In fact, it came as a relief to the WA-based nurse that the Tokyo event had been postponed.
“To be honest it was a relief for me,” said Rachel.
“When all this started, I could see what was going on around the world.
“From my health background, I was conscious of the fact we needed to make a change, the way we are living in the community, and we were pretty late to start locking things down.”
Rachel also spoke of her relief, given the situation, when the Olympics were finally and officially postponed.
“When the Olympics were officially postponed, it meant we could stop training.
“I felt so guilty at training
“I was reasonably comfortable when it was postponed that I could step in and pick up the role as a nurse.
“At least with the postponement it only means another year — obviously, I would have hated it, if it had been cancelled.”
Australia’s professional hockey players were disbanded back in March and, with the women’s side based in Perth, many considered returning to their home states as border controls came into effect and the virus began to spread.
Now a full-time nurse, Rachel’s first and foremost thought was to help combat the growing risk.
“We all had the option to stay here [in Perth] or head back home.
“Obviously, no-one knew at the time it was going to go on this long.
“Given my work in the hospital I decided to stay.
“I tried to pick up extra shifts at the hospital, but I think the way everything worked obviously they shut a lot of wards down and there were plenty of nurses looking for jobs.”
With hospitals expected to be inundated, Rachel was not the only one rushing to assist.
“I tried to get a gig at the COVID clinic at two hospitals, but they filled up pretty quickly.
“I did that for a few weeks.
“They just got inundated with people wanting to help.
“My ward was pretty quiet, working in a rehab ward — it was quite surprising, everyone thought the hospitals would just be chaos but they were very much under control, prepared for what was to come.”
With mining currently one of the crutches of the nation, and WA, amongst the economical battering sustained by the extended lockdowns, it’s crucial that workers headed out to site aren’t compromised by COVID.
It is in this sector that Rachael is currently lending her expertise, managing testing sites across the state for a mining company.
“They’ve basically implanted a program where their workers and subcontractors do a COVID screen, so a proper swab test on every single person before they leave for site.
“They have to come through one of our facilities.
“We have seven facilities across WA with nurses doing swabs.
“Once they get cleared to go, they can go up to the site.
“It’s just our way of ensuring the mining industry is safe over here — despite everything that was going on, the country can’t operate without mining,” she said.
Tests conducted during a week can number up to 30,000 and the spread of sites across a sizeable area such as WA presents a challenging prospect.
“It’s one of those things they knew if one person got up to a mine site and spread it, the mines would shut down.
“They’ve invested a lot of time and money into this program.
“It’s a fair bit of travel around WA just overseeing from a medical point of view, making sure the processes are right.
“I think people are realising, as annoying as it is to have it done regularly, it means they’re safe, they’re going to a safe site, everyone around them is safe and they’re keeping their families and livelihoods safe.
“It’s a nice program to be a part of because we can ensure WA can continue as it has been, because they’ve done a good job here to keep it away.”
While the COVID swab test is notoriously invasive, Rachael has encouraged the “better safe than sorry” approach and says that a bit of medical perspective is helpful for those reluctant to take it.
“No-one necessarily enjoys it — I’ve had about six done on me just since I’ve started working here.
“It shouldn’t be painful, but it is uncomfortable — we’ve had plenty of tears from fully grown men.
But the procedure is fairly quick, around 20 seconds, and Rachael says, in her experience, there are worse things.
“I’ve been a nurse for a long time and there are way worse procedures done to people, so I don’t think anyone should be complaining really.”
WA’s health landscape is a marked comparison from Victoria’s current predicament and beyond the physical threat that the respiratory virus can pose, Rachael remarks that the emotional and mental strain is starting to become a toll on those currently under lockdown.
“The one thing I have noticed is the mental and emotional fatigue floating around.
“I think that’s true of everyone at the moment, certainly in the medical space.
“No one knows when this is going to end.
“We’re used to being able to give answers to things and I guess this is the same as a lot of illnesses, you just don’t know what the outcome is going to be.
“It’s just about being able to control your own frustrations and the pressures you feel so that you’re not projecting that on others.
“They said there would be a mental health toll and we probably got through it ok initially.
“With this second wave however, I’ve noticed it in my friends, friends with kids, certainly my own family, how much harder it was to hear the news that we were going to go back a bit.”
With borders around the country still closed, Rachael is currently unable to see her family in Melbourne.
“My dad’s in Melbourne, my brother is in Sydney and my Nan’s actually been in hospital for the past week which has been really hard.
“Obviously I can’t get there.
“Mum’s had to step up and take on a pretty solid carer role and my Nan is 89 so in a high-risk category.
“People want to provide her with support but you’re also putting her at risk.
“I’ve really struggled with that from a distance, I’m trying to help but I can’t and it’s scary to think that it’s only one person to walk into my Nan’s room and that could be it for her.
“Everyone has their own situation they’re trying to manage and everyone’s torn.”
In the current environment, Rachael Lynch is a nurse first and athlete second and her message is clear to everyone in the fight against Coronavirus.
Do the things that need to be done.
A message that remains unchanged.
“There’s still plenty you can do.
“That involves washing your hands, staying at home and all those things we’ve been saying since the very beginning.
“People are just exhausted, it’s just providing that emotional support at the moment, wherever it’s required.
“We are all in this together and if we don’t all do the right thing, you can see what can happen.”